I interviewed 30 English teachers in East Asia not online, but in person in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. They shared their experiences, challenges, likes/dislikes, and offered advice on teaching English abroad in Asia.
If you are wondering if teaching abroad is for you or if you would like to hear some teacher's experiences of teaching English abroad then you are probably in the right place.
A couple of these teachers below have only a few weeks of experience and others have up to 12 years of experience.
You can see their advice below.
And if you would like to see their whole interview then you can click on the link to their name.
Here's advice for teaching English abroad from 26 teachers in China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan
It's all good advice. I've organized it into countries below, but that's irrelevant if you ask me - someone who has taught/lived in all of these places.
Advice on teaching English in China
So I took a trip to China while I was living in Korea and I went to Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Xiamen and interviewed these teachers.
"I would say don't go looking for a job online first. Research some cities first. Come to China as a tourist and go to some schools and talk to some teachers. Go to a local expat bar at night and talk to people there and find out about the different schools and just go from there. Cause there are so many instances of people getting rolled by schools - bad horror stories. Definitely check it out in person."
I think that is good advice. It's basically the way I did it in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. The most practical way is to go there and look and interview in person just like you would in your own country. There are a lot of benefits to doing it this way. Most sites out there don't recommend doing it this way, but why is that?
It's partly fear and lack of research. Most people try to line everything up before hand and that can work too, but you still won't know exactly what you are getting into until you are there.
"Be sure you know what you are stepping into. There are two kinds of people who come into the job. People who are passing through and people who take it seriously. Be sure if you step into a place that is serious about work that you go at it 120%. Otherwise you are going to find that there is a lot of heat doing that kind of job. But if you are passing through then tutoring is great. There's lots of money in that."
"Come with an open mind. Come as you are and if it doesn't happen for you then go home. If you feel that it is nice then stay."
"First of all, remember that wherever you are or whatever country you go to remember that you are a guest in their country. Do not come with some delusions of grandeur that you are going to come and change everyone's mentality and culture. Remember that you are a guest here and that it is an opportunity for you to learn as well from your students. You learn from them and they learn from you. It's a reciprocal thing. If you come with a mentality of respect then you will have a great experience. If you don't then you'll be miserable."
I think that is good advice. Most people don't come with the idea that they will change things, but many have difficulties with the new culture and then later try to force their culture and ways. Teaching abroad can be hard.
People think differently and it's possible that you will encounter ethnocentrism in two forms: from people in the country you go to and your own.
"Do it. Just come here. I didn't even train. Just show up they are in dire need of teachers out here. They will accommodate you well. Just get ready to adjust to some of the differences. But there are people from all over the world teaching English. It's a great gig. It's not too difficult. It just requires some patience and persistence."
"Definitely keep an open mind. Get out and about. Learn as much as you can about their lifestyle, religions, and the food they eat. You don't have to like it all (laughing). It depends on how well you travel as a person."
"Do it. Just do it."
- About teaching English in China
- How much do English teachers make in China?
- What are the requirements to teach English in China?
Advice on teaching English in Japan
While in Korea I took a trip to Tokyo and Fukuoka and interviewed these teachers. This is a sample of what they said.
"Learn some of their language."
"All I can say is do it. Honestly as an American think about the economy right now. English isn't going to go away. Conversational English might go away, but people still need English to do their global transactions. It's only going to get better. It's not a dwindling job market. So that's where the stability is if you want to travel abroad. Teach English. And if you don't like it at least you don't have to be in the States and struggle."
"Just be over planned for your lessons. Have plenty of materials for your lessons and backups. So if you are going into a 30 minute lesson prepare for like an hour and a half (laughing)."
It's good advice because things always change and you may go through content faster than you expected - although new teachers often do go too fast. You really need to develop a tool belt as a teacher.
"Get a job (laughing). Do your research there's lots of jobs out there, so just find the one that works for you. There's lots of international schools, preschools and adults and it's just a matter of finding what works with what kind of job you want. If you hate it, probably do something else."
"You have to come into the program with an open mind. Except the fact that not everyone is going to learn right away. Many people have different methods of learning, so you really have to work to adapt to everyone's style and pace."
- About teaching English in Japan
- How to get a job teaching in Japan
- How much do English teachers make in Japan?
- What are the requirements to teach English in Japan?
Advice on teaching English in Korea
So I was living in Busan and I went to Haendae beach one day and interviewed a bunch of teachers.
"I'd say you should make a list for what you want in a job and what you don't want. If it is your first time you have no idea what the differences are in the cities. You really have to talk to the teachers who work in the school. If an employer doesn't want to give you that. Then completely disregard that employer right away. There is a reason why.
I always give email addresses and phone numbers to anyone who is applying for a position in my school. Even to teachers who worked here in the past. Anybody who doesn't do that right away is not a good school. They obviously have some problems with their staff. It could be cultural or many different problems. Definitely speak to teachers there that are currently working at that branch.
- Troy Jodoin in Cheonan, Korea
"Ughh, maybe do a background check on other people who have worked in your school... Learning more Korean, before you come here. I tried to learn a little, but it's kind of hard until you are in Korea. Read up on the Korean laws cause that's important. The area where you live in go visit the police station because I have been attacked before so..."
Random things can happen, but East Asia is very safe place compared to the USA where I grew up. There is very little crime in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
"Expect to work hard. I was a teacher beforehand, so I know what's involved. I know there are a lot of extra hours involved. But when I was looking at the internet I found stuff like: make sure your apartment has a TV, make sure you get holidays. It is a teaching job, so if you are just out of university or you're taking a year out I would suggest that you take it seriously.
You're coming here and you want to give them a good example of a foreigner. A lot of foreigners just come here and treat it like, "Oh I am making money and I have free accommodation." So come here and take it seriously and enjoy it. Just take time researching into recruiters and hagwons and if it feels right then go for it."
I think it's great advice. Most people who teach abroad don't consider their work enough. They are usually just focused on the benefits such as the salary, the travel, etc. But teaching is a job. It's not simple. So if I was to do it again I would invest early on in training. What's in it for you?
If you know what you are doing it will be less stressful and more fun. It's also better for your future students and boss.
"I'd say that you really have to come with an open mind. You can't expect this to be home. Everything is different. Everything. So you just have to come and be patient and relaxed with what you are going to have."
"Come here with a really open mind. And don't think that the place or country is going to be anything like home. Be open."
"Be adaptable. Research your school. Research what you're getting into. Don't always believe your recruiter. Talk to the school. Talk to foreigners in the school yourself. Make sure it's a reputable school. And I would say apply to public schools before thinking about going to a private institution which is business oriented."
It's good advice to talk to the school and be skeptical of recruiters. Some people have bad experiences with hagwons, but some don't. There are benefits to hagwons too. In the end it always depends. It's not black and white where one is bad and one is good. Here's an article on public schools vs. hagwons in Korea.
"Be willing to accept cultural differences between co-workers. You could put your own cultural ways on them or expect them to understand why we do things a certain way. Have the willingness to work hard and I would take your job seriously. I think the best things that my teachers or the principal has told me is that if you work hard that's what matters."
"Do research before you come over on where you'll be living and your school. Come with an open mind cause living abroad is very different from living at home. And know that it will be different from home. You'll go through some hard times, but there are many many good times."
"Research. The city that you live in will make or break your time. I chose Busan specifically because of the beaches. But talking to people who have been here is probably the best tool you have. They are going to be your best resource. Talking about their experiences and sharing them with you."
"I think the biggest thing is to figure out if you want to do public school or a hagwon. Make sure you talk to the boss and people who work at the school."
"Uhmm, be able to put up with a lot of bullshit. If you can handle the bullshit and stress then you will be fine. Just remember you are in another country."
Teaching abroad can be hard. A lot of things are going to be different such as the language, the culture, the environment, and your job. Being tough and resilient is going to help. People have different experiences.
"Do it. I don't know what kind of advice... Close your eyes jump in and enjoy every moment of it. It's not a difficult task. Be passionate. Keep your head in the game it's a lot easier teaching here than being an actual teacher in the States. I would suggest it. It's one of the best life experiences that you could have."
- About teaching English in Korea
- How to get a job teaching in Korea
- How much do English teachers make in Korea?
- What are the requirements to teach English in Korea?
Teaching English in Taiwan advice
I took a trip down to Taiwan where I used to teach and ran into an old friend Dale.
"Internet. I would use the internet and get on tealit.com. They seem to have information on everything: accommodation, furniture, bikes (scooters), visas, jobs, girls, friends, pen pals, language exchanges, college courses, etc. Get on there and get as much info as you can. I'll tell you what. Some people get on there and make MSM friends a few months before coming over. So that when you arrive you have some friends."
- About teaching English in Taiwan
- How to get a job teaching in Taiwan
- How much do English teachers make in Taiwan?
- What are the requirements to teach English in Taiwan?
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And since we save the best advice for last...
If you really want to get started off on the right foot teaching English abroad in Asia then I'd recommend taking this course because it's especially focused on teaching in East Asia.
Teaching English is hard (at least it was for me) and it can really drag you down if you don't know what you are doing.